Black metal’s Cradle of Filth embraces dark, moody image

There’s nothing really sinister or menacing about the dude who makes his living being sinister and menacing.

To wit: Ask black metal blasphemer Paul Allender what he thinks of Vegas, and he shares a funny story about the last time his band hit town.

Guitarist Allender and some other members of winkingly sacrilegious Brit metallers Cradle of Filth were at a bar here with some of their road crew when a sound guy, who was blasted drunk, encountered a lady he hoped to get with.

"He saw this girl and he took a bit of a shine to her, so, obviously, he tried to get her in bed," Allender recalls through an audible smile. "So she said, ‘Look, I’ll play you at pool, and if you win, I’ll sleep with you. If not, I want X amount of money.’

"Of course, he lost. A lot," he adds with a chuckle.

For a guy who smothers himself in black leather onstage, eyes darkened into obsidian slits with mascara, Allender’s disposition is as sunny as his band’s repertoire is overcast.

He’s chatty and amiable, even though Allender’s long paid the rent by penning equally orchestral, musically ostentatious and malevolent chestnuts like "Shat Out of Hell," "Heaven Torn Asunder" and "Rise of the Pentagram."

"At the end of the day, with heavy metal music, you can’t have a nice, pretty image to go with it," Allender says matter-of-factly. "It has to be dark and moody. It has to be a tough image. Therefore, the reason we’ve created a concept and an image is to fit our music, so that people can get lost in the music and the atmosphere when they get our album and read the booklet and look at the artwork. It’s a whole: the music, the image, the stage show. If any of that was taken out, it wouldn’t be the band."

Since debuting in the mid-’90s, Cradle of Filth has done much to popularize black metal as one of the genre’s most commercially successful acts with their elaborate, orchestral arrangements, epic lyrical storylines evocative of classic gothic horror novels, and theatrical stage shows that have on past tours included stilt walkers with power tools shooting sparks all over one another and demonic looking actors striking creepy poses.

There’s a seductive, sensual side to it all — rare for any kind of extreme metal act — with recurrent themes of sin and temptation spread liberally across the band’s nine albums and female protagonists continually lending a hot-blooded edge to both the band’s records and artwork.

Cradle’s latest disc, the concussive concept album "Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa," continues in this tradition.

Centered around Lilith, the first wife of the biblical Adam, it’s a typically involved, enveloping effort from this bunch, dense and layered with dramatic keys and frontman Dani Filth’s patented upper register shrieks, which sound like a banshee getting her fingernails forcibly removed.

It could be the soundtrack to a modern day restaging of a classic Hammer Horror flick, with an old-school creepiness contrasted with a modern metal emphasis on blinding speed, shards of blackened melody and complex, technically challenging compositions.

It’s all a long way from Cradle’s origin, which is rooted in the guitar harmonies of Iron Maiden, the velocity of ’80s thrash and the gruff, guttural gallop of death metal’s second wave.

Allender, a self-taught musician who grew up wanting to be a welder not a guitarist, conveys none of the devilry inherent in the band’s music.

Asked what he’s channeling when he’s onstage, what kind of outlet Cradle of Filth is for him, and he responds in unassuming fashion — and that’s about the only time "unassuming" gets associated with these dudes.

"I personally don’t get lost in it," he says of Cradle’s dark imagery. "It’s good to see the look on people’s faces. They really get into it. They love it, which is amazing.

"But I don’t physically start getting possessed and all that crap," he adds. "At the end of the day, I’m just getting up there, playing guitar and enjoying my job."

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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